How To Prepare For Your Vocal Recording Session
Many artists today are opting to have their vocals recorded professionally to get access to the high-end microphones, studio equipment, and audio engineers required to create that ready-for-radio sound. Preparation for your recording session is absolutely crucial in order to get the most out of your studio time.
Follow these steps and you’ll be fully prepared to have a smooth, productive, and (most importantly) fun vocal recording session.
1. Communication with the engineer or studio is key.
Send over the tracks or instrumentals that you’ll be recording to in advance, as well as any previous recordings of yourself so the hired engineer can get an idea of your personal style. If you don’t have any recordings of yourself yet that’s fine- a rough recording (even a voice memo on your phone) will still help the engineer get a feel for your vibe. Open communication will ensure that everyone will be on the same page during your recording session.
2. Rehearse to a click track/metronome.
This will help with your timing and rhythm when tracking and will result in fewer, better quality takes. When practicing with a click, you will know that you’re on time when you can no longer hear the metronome piercing through while you are singing. You’ll need to know the tempo, or BPM (beats per minute) of your song in order to sync your metronome to click on the beat.
You can import your track into a free online BPM detection tool to get the tempo. There are also several apps that can detect tempo and set a metronome accordingly such as Beat Detect. There are even some metronome apps that can sync to your Apple Watch to tap with the tempo like TonalEnergy Tuner & Metronome. You can even find a free virtual metronome online at https://www.metronomeonline.com/
But most people tend to prefer a small and affordable pocket-size metronome such as the Korg MA1BL Visual Beat Counting Metronome.
3. Warm up BEFORE your session.
Being vocally warmed up will ensure that you deliver your best performance and record high quality, and consistent takes throughout your session. Do standard vocal warm ups or sing along to songs with wide vocal ranges in the car on the way to your session. BE CAREFUL not to hurt or strain your voice during vocal warm ups- these exercises are meant to prepare yourself for recording, not to tire your vocal chords on your way in.
4. Bring an external drive to back your session up.
Most studios must clear their hard drives approximately every 2 weeks and aren’t obligated to store and backup your session. Majority of the time, the files will be sent to you electronically at the end of your session. However, it is always a great idea to bring a flash drive so you have your own personal backup.
We recommend a USB 3.0 drive which has faster file transfer speeds than USB 2.0 so that you don’t spend too much session time transferring files, and a minimum of 16GB storage such as the SanDisk Ultra Flair16GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive.
5. Arrive 10 minutes early.
The clock starts at the time booked whether you’re on time or not! This will also ensure you have some time to settle in and get comfortable. Especially if its your first time at the specific studio. If for any reason you may be even just a few minutes late, let the studio/engineer know so they can plan accordingly!
6. Record first, edit later.
It’s in your best interest to get as much recording done and take advantage of the professional recording equipment you have at your disposal. Don’t worry too much about tuning, effects, etc. at the beginning. You can always go back and re-record if you’re unhappy with a take. Focus on recording everything you need while you have that great studio microphone in front of you!
7. Consider your harmonies/backing/ad-libs vocals beforehand and set enough time to capture them.
Many vocalists forget about this part and will end up spending a lot of their studio time trying to figure out harmonies/ad-libs and run the risk of not getting them in.
8. Get in the right headspace.
Think about the mood, emotions, and vibe you want to convey and place yourself there mentally. Vocals sound a lot better with emotional intent behind them! Also, let your engineer know about the background, emotions, and/or message of your project. Not only will they be better equipped to convey these artistic elements for you, they will personally feel more connected to your music.
There’s no need to be nervous or self-conscious. It’s likely your engineer has heard everything (and we mean ev-ery-thing). They aren’t focused on judging you, but rather capturing your best performance. Despite all the gadgets and gear, the studio is a place for artistic creation and exploration, and may arguably be the one place to truly be yourself and let it all out!